My husband is blessed with the ability to move from one country to another with the ease of a man strolling from room to room in his own home. I, on the other hand, used to suffer horribly from culture lag, feeling disoriented and off-kilter every time we made our twice-yearly trips from Seville to California. But lately I’ve noticed a curious thing: the transitions no longer bother me much. Having just returned to our home near San Francisco, I do feel a bit jet lagged, but I’m getting up every morning and sitting down cheerfully at my computer to get on with various writing projects, just as I do most mornings, whether I’m in my Seville apartment or on the road.
This morning it suddenly struck me: I have become a digital nomad.
I used to think that term only applied to people like our friends Lindsay and Ross, who have jobs they can do entirely via laptop and smartphone, allowing them to move every three to six months to a different part of the globe, just for the fun of it. Last week, Rich and I visited them and their toddler, Everett, in Cork, Ireland, where they’re spending the summer in a converted barn overlooking the sea. At the age of 16 months, Everett has already been on 27 plane flights and lived in five countries. “We want to be sure we’re raising our kids in an environment bigger than their own back yard,” Lindsay once told me. I think they’ve got that covered.
It occurred to me this morning that Rich and I are more like Lindsay and Ross than I realized. We pack up and move every three to four months, mostly going back and forth from Seville to San Francisco, but occasionally, as we did last year, traveling for extended periods in other countries. My work is entirely done on a laptop; I maintain this blog, am active on social media, and provide content for various online publications and travel websites. Right now I’m writing a new book (spoiler alert: it has to do with travel) and I’ve learned that I can move the project forward just as well at the breakfast table in an Irish B&B or a hostel in Bulgaria as I can at my desk at home.The more I think about it, the more I believe that we are all becoming digital nomads. Whether we’re at home or abroad, our phones and computers keep us connected to the larger world, as well as to our family, friends, work lives, and social circles. We can pursue our online interests anywhere and never need to feel out of touch.
Of course, this has a downside as well. Most people growing up in the digital age will never experience the heady freedom of being completely unreachable. I remember years ago heading down the Amazon River on a wheezy old boat that made the African Queen look like a cruise ship, knowing that we would soon be in such a remote part of the Peruvian jungle that it would take days to get to a place where we could communicate with the outside world. For Rich, who had a high-stress corporate job at the time, that knowledge was sheer bliss.
Nowadays, it’s much, much harder to get beyond the Internet’s vast reach. Last night we had dinner with our friends Kathryn and Peter, who recently spent time with a remote tribe in Papua New Guinea – and were able to email us this photo the same day it was taken.
Whether you travel physically to other lands or enjoy exploring them from the comfort of an easy chair at home, you are part of the online world community. The Internet currently links several billion devices around the planet, keeping us connected, letting many of us work remotely, and making all of us citizens of the world.
I'm an American travel writer based in Spain and currently living in California.
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